Magazine, Travel

How Does an RV Refrigerator Work?

An electric pump powers almost all domestic refrigerators. RV refrigerators, however, are often used in areas where there is no electricity supply to take advantage of. Instead of depleting the RV battery to keep food cold, RVs use a different type of system called a gas absorption refrigerator, which is powered by a propane burner. 

Boil ammonia

The cooling process starts with the generator, a container with water containing ammonia dissolved inside. A burner heats the generator until the boiling point of the vapor is reached. Since ammonia boils at a lower temperature than water does, the gas leaves the generator and wafts up into the condenser. In the capacitor, the vapor begins to cool and, finally, liquid ammonia is formed, now without water in it.

Cool it

The ammonia flows down from the condenser to a chamber full of hydrogen called the evaporator. In this low-pressure chamber, the vapor expands, cooling rapidly as it does. It is the evaporator that creates the cooling action of the refrigerator. A fan blows in the evaporator, cooling the last blowing air. This cold air circulates through the fridge.

If you have a Dometic model, the adjustment is carried out inside the fridge, by a small lever; the more you mount it, the higher the temperature will be, and vice versa. On the other hand, if you have a Norcold model, the adjustment is made at the front, with a dial numbered from 1 to 5.

Your refrigerator may also have an ON / OFF button in the freezer compartment; this is used to prevent the accumulation of water droplets between the top and bottom doors during hot summer days.

Back to the start

A device called the absorber sends water dripping through the evaporator. Ammonia dissolves easily in water, but hydrogen does not. The water drains down with the ammonia dissolved in the trailer and flows back to the generator, beginning the cycle again.

There are mainly two brands of refrigerants in RVs, Dometic and Norcold, each with their characteristics. But no matter which of these brands equip your trailer, you first need to locate the serial number and model number; keep them handy as you will need them if you need to contact our parts and accessories department or for a service call!

The Dometic models have two front buttons: one ON / OFF, the other AUTO. While the first allows to turn on or off the fridge, the second determines if it runs on electricity or gas. So, if the light is on, your refrigerator will run (with the 12V current); if it is off, it is the gas cylinder that has taken over. Check light is on? Check whether the gas or charge levels of the battery are sufficient; if everything is beautiful on this side and the sun is always on, contact us!

The maintenance of RV refrigerators

Like any electric or gas appliance in a trailer, your propane fridge will require rigorous maintenance. An annual review is a key to maximizing performance and reducing problems, such as a propane leak. You should also inspect the ventilation ducts and remove debris from leaves, animals, or insects that may be lodged there.

Finally, for optimal performance of your fridge, be sure to leave enough space between the food, so that air can circulate well. RV cover can help you to keep the temperature of your overall RV 

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